Lt. Colonel Curtis P. Balko
Lt. Colonel Curtis P. Balko, retired, born December 6, 1934, in Almena, Wisconsin, a 1952 graduate of Barron, Wisconsin High School and a 1956 graduate of UW-Superior with a Bachelor of Science degree in Instrumental Music and a commission in the United States Air Force, died January 16, 2019 at his home in Lincoln, California. Curtis began his Air Force career in 1956, completing pilot training, then serving in the Air Defense Force flying F-102A and F-106A fighter interceptors.
In 1970, having requested to serve in Vietnam, he was assigned to Phu Cat Air Base from where he flew the F-4D on 132 combat missions in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. For each of two missions he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for "professional competence, flying skill, and devotion to duty." A report of one of these missions is included in the Official Historical Document of the U.S. Air Force titled "12th Tactical Fighter Wing Association - Combat Mission Stories." It was the May 2, 1970 mission when he and his wingman were scrambled off the 5-minute Alert Pad to fly a low level mission in support of friendly troops. Major Balko and his wingman navigated their way through severe thunderstorms and approaching evening to the target area. At 500 feet altitude and at 400 knots air speed, Curtis with this wingman following, released in rapid succession their twelve 500 pound drag bombs, each of which detonated three feet above ground, inflicting heavy casualties on the enemy troops. Light arms and machine gun fire followed the jets but no damage was inflicted to either aircraft.
Among the many medals awarded Curtis are: Distinguished Flying Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters, USAF Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, and others. In July his body will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery, Washington D.C. with full military honors.
After serving his country for 25 years, Curtis retired in 1981 and was hired by Loomis Armored Car, Inc. as a Management Trainee. Over the next 18 years, he worked his way up to President, Western Division of then Loomis-Fargo, retiring December 31, 1999.